Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Strong third period a breath of fresh air for UMass hockey

Minutemen outscore Maine 4-1 in final 20 minutes on Friday
Colin McCarthy/ Daily Collegian (2023)

ORONO, Maine — The inability to close out games has plagued the Massachusetts hockey team for a few months running, and it’s an aspect of the game that had UMass (12-16-5, 6-14-3 Hockey East) head coach Greg Carvel frustrated at times late in the season.

On Friday in a hostile environment at Alfond Arena, the Minutemen finally found themselves on the better side of a third period onslaught. They outscored Maine 4-1 in the frame and turned a nail-biting game into a definitive win, one they needed badly for momentum heading into the HEA playoffs.

“The third period was outstanding on both sides of the puck,” Carvel said. “I told them, ‘I think our team’s speed is the difference, use it and make them defend’ … and the kids did a really good job of finishing their chances.”

The Minutemen and the Black Bears (15-14-5, 9-10-4 HEA) played a very even second period, but the Minutemen seemed to find another level during the final 20 minutes, starting with a hard rush up the ice by Taylor Makar. Makar got all the way in on Ostman and poked it past the Maine goaltender, providing UMass with a lead. It didn’t take long for Owen Murray to expand on that with a skilled goal of his own slicing through the defense.

“Other than a couple shifts where we were hemmed in our zone it really felt like we were controlling the game,” UMass defenseman Scott Morrow said. “We knew we could wear them down and we were pretty confident.”

Once Makar notched a second goal, the once rambunctious building was completely deflated.

“I think [closing it out] was huge, it was a big focus of our intermission meeting,” Makar said. “We talk about something called ‘road will’ at UMass where it takes so much more on the road to win, so it was a good one of us and [Alfond] is a tough barn to play in.”

The Black Bears attempted to mount a comeback but fell way short. Their third period goal came too late and with less than three minutes left, Cal Kiefiuk’s empty netter sealed the deal.

Before Friday night, the Minutemen had been outscored 11-3 in the third period over their last six games. They blew a three goal lead on two separate occasions to Vermont, turning wins into ties, and UMass was gassing out towards the end of games. Extra sprints in practice and a refocused mindset helped the Minutemen turn a page during third periods, and that shift couldn’t come at a more important time.

Sixty minutes of hockey are necessary to win playoff games, and UMass knows it. The Minutemen are trying to get hot to make one final push before the season ends, and Friday night’s game was a step in the right direction.

UMass did exactly what it’ll have to do during the HEA postseason: go on the road, fight through adversity and out-compete the team across from it. Carvel and the Minutemen were happy to reach that result against Maine and will look to complete the series sweet on the road on Saturday night. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.

“Going into playoffs, you need to be able to do that,” Makar said of closing out games. “It was a big one tonight but we still have to work on it tomorrow.”

Colin McCarthy can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @colinmccarth_DC.

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